There's always something new to discover at FortWhyte Alive.
The Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), a member of the Blackbird family (Icteridae), is a champion among North American songbirds with an annual flight of approximately 20,000 km round-trip, one of the longest migrations in the western hemisphere. With a breeding range covering open areas of the northern US and southern Canada, the Bobolink returns from its wintering grounds in the grasslands of southwestern Brazil, Paraguay, and Northern Argentina to appear here in southern Manitoba about the second to third week of May.
Upon arrival, the male Bobolink is visually striking in a jet black coat with bright white shoulders and rump and a straw-colored patch on the back of his head. He utters his unique, uplifting, bubbly flight song of metallic notes, and whistles while fluttering up over the fields with rapid, shallow wingbeats in a distinctive, helicopter-like display.
In contrast, the female Bobolink is sometimes mistaken for a large sparrow, with her plain front, dark head stripes, patterned wings and pale, overall golden-buff colouring. Bobolinks formerly nested in tall and mixed grass prairies, but now utilize hay and alfalfa fields, meadows, and lush pastures in agricultural regions. The typical nest, built by the female, is very well-hidden on the ground amongst dense grass, and contains 4-7 eggs.
The nestlings are fed by both parents and leave the nest in about 14 days, often before gaining flight ability. Feeding primarily on insects during the summer, Bobolinks also consume seeds of weeds, grasses and grains, particularly during migration and on their South American wintering grounds where they sometimes invite persecution with damage to local rice crops.
As with many ground-nesting grassland species, habitat loss, coupled with nest-destroying mowing and haying practices (sadly observed first-hand during surveying with the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas) have impacted the Bobolink, which is now federally designated as “threatened” by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Fortunately, the Bobolink can still be found in suitable habitat in southern Manitoba, and continues to inspire us with its exuberant, uplifting song, and unique attributes deserving of our admiration and respect.
For those interested in a the chance to spot the bobolink and other songbirds at FortWhyte Alive, Birding and Breakfast runs every Wednesday and Friday morning during the month of May. Our experienced birding guides lead a sunrise hike to observe spring migrants. After your hike, join Chef Kelly in the Buffalo Stone Cafe for a delicious breakfast. Bring your binoculars and come prepared for spring weather - we will be out on the trail rain or shine! Guided hikes depart at 7am. Visit www.fortwhyte.org/birding or call (204) 989-8355 for more information and to register.
All of us at FortWhyte Alive would like to extend a giant thank you to everyone who joined us for our Earth Day celebration yesterday! We had a great day of outdoor recreation, green transportation, and nature-based learning––and with over 6500 people through the gates, this was our largest Earth Day to-date.
We’d also like to welcome all of our new FortWhyte Alive Members who joined yesterday, as well as those who renewed their memberships this Earth Day. Thank you for supporting FortWhyte's environmental education initiatives. With your help, we can continue to educate our young people in becoming stewards of their environment, shaping the future of our planet for generations to come.
A University of Winnipeg student team calling themselves the "UW Cloud Punchers" successfully launched a weather balloon from the top of the Prairie Dog Town at FortWhyte Alive this morning. Attached to the balloon is a radiosonde recording atmospheric data as well as video footage of the landscape below. After a rise to about 30,000 metres, the balloon will pop, and a small orange parachute will carry the recording equipment back to Earth to be retrieved using a GPS signal, which the students can track with their cellphones.
Manitoba teams are participating for the first time in a Canada-wide project called The National High Altitude Balloon Experiment (HABEX), and the international Global Space Balloon Challenge (GSBC). You can view the footage captured from the balloon, and others across Canada, at the Science Rendezvous events happening at both U of W and U of M, on Saturday, May 9.
Trout Unlimited Canada is partnering with FortWhyte Alive to bring their Yellow Fish Road™ water pollution education program to Manitoba in 2015.
Since 1991, Yellow Fish Road program has been available only in other provinces, with most programs in Alberta and Ontario. Yet their goal applies across the country: to remind Canadians about their responsibility to reduce stormwater pollution, one of the largest sources of freshwater pollution. Their stormdrain painting activity provides all the instructions and materials (and necessary permissions) to allow youth to go out and paint yellow fish with the words "Rainwater Only" onto residential street drains.
With funding from The Winnipeg Foundation and Environment Canada, the goal of the first year of Yellow Fish Road program is to deliver Grade 1-9 level educational presentations to schools and community groups, and plan and deliver storm drain painting activities.
Yellow Fish Road will be launching and promoting their program at FortWhyte during the Earth Day Celebration on April 26.
To inquire or book a free presentation, please contact Michele Kading, Education Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the FWA Yellow Fish Road page for more information.
What better way to celebrate Planet Earth than a day at FortWhyte Alive? Join us Sunday, April 26th to explore the outdoors, embrace green transportation, and celebrate by learning about actions you can take toward more sustainable living.
Did we mention that admission is free all day?
Enjoy a full day of family-friendly fun and experience the best of what FortWhyte Alive has to offer. Take in a Bison Safari or any one of the classic FortWhyte Alive activities, like bannock roasts, archery, orienteering, geocaching, voyageur canoe rides, dipnetting and interpretive hikes.
For those looking to celebrate, there will be carnival games, puppet shows, face painting, and live performances by Juno-nominated performer Aaron Burnett. New this year, join Art City in creating a natural masterpiece that will be displayed permanently at FortWhyte Alive.
FortWhyte Farms will be showcasing sustainable urban agriculture and offering an afternoon of homesteading demos, farm tours and fun activities like farm animal face painting.
For those eager to learn more about environmental sustainability in our province, there will be hands-on workshops and services provided by a number of organizations and other special guests, including CBC Manitoba Meteorologist John Sauder, who will be on-site to answer all of your tough weather questions from 12-2 pm. Earth Day at FortWhyte Alive is your chance to recycle those old batteries, tires, and consumer electronics -- and purchase a backyard composter while you’re at it! And, as a special Earth Day-only offer, those looking to live sustainably all year-round can enjoy FortWhyte Alive Memberships at 25% off.
In honour of Earth Day, a host of sustainable transportation options will be on offer, such as free Winnipeg Transit service and guided group bike rides with Bike Winnipeg departing from designated sites around Winnipeg. As always, all attendees that walk, roll, or ride to FortWhyte Alive will be rewarded for making sustainable choices and entered to win a special prize.
More information about the Earth Day Celebration at FortWhyte Alive, including program of activities, Winnipeg Transit times/locations, and Bike Winnipeg ride, visit www.fortwhyte.org/earthday.